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ETAN at 20

Reflections, Reminiscences and Comments on ETAN at 20
(additional comments here)

These are only part of the story, we would love to here yours, email us. We urge you to contribute your reflections on the role solidarity over the past two decades and in the coming years. The reflections on this page are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of ETAN.


I am very happy to join you in celebrating your 20th anniversary. ETAN has been in the forefront of global campaigning in support of the tireless struggle of the people of East Timor. It has kept us all informed of everything happening to the people of East Timor and pointing us in the direction of what needs to be done.

Campaigning to end Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor inspired many groups of activists here in the UK where it was closely linked to the campaign to end British arms sales to the Indonesian dictatorial regime. For many years, East Timor was one of the foremost issues among human rights activists and NGOs in the UK which also had a major impact in reinforcing concerns about human rights in general across the country.

We in TAPOL salute ETAN on its 20th anniversary and hope that we together, acting in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste as they build a new country and at the same time press for an end to impunity to ensure that the many military personnel who perpetrated crimes against humanity against the Timorese people during the occupation are brought to account.
Carmel Budiardjo, TAPOL

Read additional reflections on ETAN's 20th Anniversary

Congratulations to ETAN on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. 

I was involved in the East Timor Independence Committee here in Aotearoa for many years, and have now worked with the successor group Indonesia Human Rights Committee since 2000I have lots of good memories of working with you over the last twenty years. I greatly value your postings, your website, the joint representations and letters. I can always rely on your information, and I cannot understate the importance of that to a small organisation such as ours.

Kia kaha,
Maire Leadbeater
Twenty years ago, “Action” and “Network” were prescient choices in the title of ETAN. With a fraction the resources of other human rights organizations, ETAN is an impressive network of canny, dedicated people and organizations. Their work affecting US military policy alone gives them giant creds. I am inspired by working with the stellar activists of ETAN.
Max White
Country Specialist, Indonesia and Timor-Lesté
Amnesty International USA
Portland OR
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of ETAN! I am sending this greeting from a very hot city of Dili. I feel as if I myself were a member of ETAN, because we have been working for East Timor for such a long time and also because now I am in close contact with Jill Sternberg and Charlie Scheiner in Dili.

We, the international solidarity groups, have to renew our commitment to the issue of East Timor. As the time passes, the human rights issues, especially the serious crimes committed during the Indonesian time, are being neglected, which makes the healing the victims' wounds more and more difficult. I always think that I myself have to work more on these issues, but I tend to concentrate on the development projects and other activities, leaving the more important human rights issues behind.

This opportunity of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of ETAN serves me as a precious time of reflection on the priority among the works I am doing now. I thank you for that and pray very much that the ETAN continues its valuable contribution to the never-ending issue of East Timor.

Sr.Monica Nakamura
Catholic East Timor Association - Japan

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Demonstration at Australian Embassy, Washington, DC

ETAN puts into practice my belief that those of us living in countries where human rights are relatively well protected have an obligation to exercise those rights on behalf of people who live in countries where they aren’t. I am still amazed at what ETAN was able to accomplish in the 1990s in making Indonesia more accountable for its actions through its lobbying efforts in Washington and its awareness campaigns. I don’t think President Habibie would have considered an independence referendum had it not been for the years of pressure being exerted on Indonesia through Congressional committees and the constant annoying exposure of its human rights abuses in Timor-Leste and elsewhere.

When the opportunity suddenly arose for the Timorese to express their will, ETAN played a lead role with other solidarity groups in organizing the IFET election observer mission, of which I was a part, in an impossible time frame. Our presence there showed that we stood beside them at their moment of destiny and their exuberant expressions of gratitude was humbling, even though most of us share pangs of guilt for not being able to support during the violence that followed the vote.

Since then, ETAN has tirelessly promoted justice, peace and self-sufficiency, working alongside civil society in Timor-Leste. A great organization!

Bob Crane
Victoria, Canada


Michael Ede and Eliot Hoffman at ETAN lit table.

"Agir pour Timor" (Act for Timor) in France had been launched in 1989, two years before ETAN, when the Pope was visiting Dili. A small group of activists, most of them former members of the Association de Solidarité avec Timor-Oriental (ASTO), thought that the critical situation of the Timorese people needed ongoing action in relation to the media and to the other French NGOs and human rights defenders. I was one of those activists, along with Antonio, Bruno, Olivier, Cecile, Alexandre, Filipe, Pascal ... We immediately started to participate in international meetings, in order to coordinate our actions. I remember the London and Amsterdam meetings.

The birth of ETAN was a great sign of hope: We all knew how important was the American support for Indonesia and for the Suharto regime, and we recognized an absolute need to focus American public opinion to neutralize the Indonesian embassies’ propaganda in our own countries.

Let me remember here two friends we have lost recently:

Umar Said, an Indonesian journalist and refugee in France since the 1970s, was involved in the first meetings against the military invasion in early 1976 and attended the May 20, 2002, independence ceremony in Timor-Leste. He passed away in October ( I am preparing a film about him and the cooperative restaurant called “Indonesia," here in Paris, which he launched almost 30 years ago with Indonesian exiles and some French friends and which is still open every day.

Danielle Mitterrand, former French first lady in the 1980s and early 1990s and founder of the France-Liberté foundation, she was "one of ours." At the behest of Jakarta, the Philippine government refused her entry in 1994 to participate in a regional conference on Timor in Manila. She participated in the first National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction meeting held in Dili in August 2000. She passed away last month (

Long live ETAN !
Paris, France

Health Alliance International (HAI) has been working to support health care in Timor-Leste since early 1999. Our initial involvement there during that horrendous, chaotic year was informed and strengthened at every step by the support and encouragement of the Seattle ETAN group. Led by a small, incredibly energetic and dedicated group, they were in constant motion – staying on top of the latest developments in the country, presenting informational meetings for the general public, sending out notices as the situation changed. I was astounded, a year or two later, to find that none of the key ETAN leadership had ever been to East Timor, but were simply so incensed at the treatment of the Timorese that they were determined to help change the situation.

Over the past nearly 13 years of efforts to strengthen the country’s health system, it is rare that we encounter a topic of vital interest to the country that ETAN has not already studied and published on the east-timor listserv. It is the only progressive voice that consistently and reliably takes the perspective of the well-being of the Timorese people in its analysis of the many ups and downs of that new country. HAI congratulates ETAN on its 20th Anniversary with great appreciation. We look forward to your continued service to the Timorese people.

Mary Anne Mercer
Senior MMCH/FP Program Advisor
Health Alliance International

Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of ResistanceThe importance of ETAN for me, as an activist with Australians For a Free East Timor (AFFET) in Darwin, Australia, before the referendum in August 1999, was "reg.easttimor", the comprehensive email news list of world-wide newspapers articles, reports and UN resolutions relating to the struggle which contributed to our knowledge of the situation within East Timor and of what international activist groups were campaigning on. Since the referendum I still read ETAN's news list and also often refer to the archives on as I write up stories about the struggle.

Jude Conway
editor, Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of Resistance and Survival (2010)
ETAN has been inspirational in raising awareness of the situation in East Timor (and later West Papua) over the past 20 years, and, since independence, have made a valuable contribution to rebuilding the new nation through the ETAN news service that increases opportunities for organisations and individuals to cooperate in many initiatives in health, education, justice, agriculture, music, literature and art.

Best wishes

Esther Anderson
Deputy Convenor Friends of Same, Australia

I had never heard of East Timor. However, after listening to an account of the Santa Cruz massacre on Democracy Now, I made a donation to ETAN. Some months later, I received a call from Kristin Sundell, asking if I'd host Constancio Pinto as a speaker. It wasn't a good time for me, but Kristin persisted, so I agreed. I pulled out all the stops, getting media interviews, setting up a public presentation, invitations for Constancio to speak to college classes and a labor gathering, etc.

Constancio's humility touched me. At a public talk he gave, someone asked if there would be a bloodbath if Indonesia pulled out. I'll never forget his reply: "I have forgiven my torturers, and I hope every East Timorese can do the same."
That gave me the energy to work hard on legislation and public opinion for East Timor's freedom for several years, including two conferences/lobbying events in Washington, where I found more receptiveness in congressional offices than on many other issues I've tackled. Throughout this time, ETAN produced a steady supply of useful information. I would say that ETAN was one of the best-organized and effective groups I've worked with in my 32 years in this position (below).
Following East Timor's independence, I tried unsuccessfully to get help for the rebuilding of the country. When ETAN took on the democratization of Indonesia, I decided to end my participation with the group, as this was not a direction I had the energy for.


Barbara DiTommaso
Commission on Peace and Justice
Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany

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